Stu Kennedy is a composer who has worked on films such as 'Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader', 'Morning Glory' and 'Night of The Templar', and TV shows such as 'Torchwood', 'Comic Relief', 'How to Grow a Planet' and 'Behind the Mask'. Here he explains his approach to composing and gives an insiders view into the industry.
- Do you have a daily writing routine or do you wait for inspiration to strike? Nope ... I wait for a job to strike and then wait until it's getting close to delivery (not letting people down is my inspiration)
- Do you have any tricks to get the creative juices flowing? See 1. ... I find the pressure of deadlines enough to get the creative juices flowing
- Do you receive inspiration from watching the programmes you're working on, or do you normally search for a pre-existing idea that fits with the programmes subject matter? Often you get lumbered with a temp track and get told stuff the Director/Producers like e.g. "We like Justin Bieber make it sound like that" ... so then I have to listen to Justin Bieber.
- How did you get into composing for TV/Film? David Arnold heard some stuff I posted on Twitter (as did Murray Gold) and
they asked me, respectively, if I'd like to have a go helping out on some
bigger projects (I did some orchestral mockups for David on Narnia and assisted
Murray on Torchwood: Miracle Day), so I got to feel inept for a while seeing
how real composers write and produce music, whilst attempting to pretend like I
knew what I was doing.
- How long do you typically have to complete a score? Anywhere between a few days and a year .. completely depends on the project and how much notice you get.
- Could you explain a little about the writing process behind a couple of your scores that you are particularly proud of? I quite often start writing on the piano, maybe come up with a theme, chord progression and style I think works and then start working (endlessly until I can't carry on any longer) on arrangements with different instrumentation to see what sticks. I've got the most successful results when I either have a very strong melodic theme and write around that or a very strong chordal progression and write over that.
- What scores/songs that other people have written do you particularly admire? Out Of Africa (John Barry), How To Train Your Dragon (John Powell), The Town (HGW & David Buckley), James Taylor At Christmas, The Mission (Ennio Morricone), Any tracks by Snarky Puppy, The Weight Of My Mistakes (Seal) ... oh loads of stuff I can't remember.
- Do you think that a technical knowledge of theory is important? It depends what you're doing ... if it's mainly orchestral then definitely, but lots of TV/film stuff now is aleatoric, electronica, band-based ... so I think broadly, no you don't need theory, but specifically for traditional orchestral based scores, yes definitely
- How would your approach to scoring for Tv/Film differ to composing a piece that is not related to any media? I find it much easier to write to picture as the scaffolding is already defined by the pace and structure of the picture, writing to nothing is more of a chore and I'm pretty crap at it.
- Do you write with a view to being commercial and following current trends? Well ... everything's commercial really. You're paid to write something that someone wants, so you're trying to find what the person paying you wants. That may be "current" or it may be horribly cheesy ... at the end of the day we're providing a service that we're paid for.
- Have you done much co-writing, and if so what do you see as the benefits? Yeah I've worked with other composers and I really enjoy that ... there can be an energy when you both vibe off each other's writing ... I could imagine it is also very awkward if you hate what each other is doing to the piece you're happy with, but luckily I haven't faced that yet.
- Who do you view as great songwriters/composers.? I love stuff by (not in order) John Powell, Harry Gregson-Williams, Ennio Morricone, Alan Silvestri, Jerry Goldsmith, David Arnold, George Fenton and sometimes Hans Zimmer ... I hate doing lists though as I'll go "dammit I forgot this one" ... . (I can't even start with songwriters we'd be here all day)
- Do you feel that when there's conflict/struggle in your life that it inspires better work? Err no ... composing and dealing with Directors/Producers is hard enough without extra conflict, I have a VERY understanding wife and 4 children who know to keep out of my way when I'm writing and know when I need to lighten up a little bit.
- Do you have any idea where you ideas come from? I believe God is the source of all good inspiration ultimately, so I'm really just copying Him.
- Do you have any advice you'd like to share with budding composers out there? YES ... don't do it, get a job that pays you what you're worth ... and if you can't not do it ... then do it.
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Click on the following to find Stu on the web.
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